*some names have been changed to protect the guilty*
Let’s just get this out of the way. Marge is not a nice person. I’m sure she has her reasons, but I’m no longer content with her “moody” label—as that would indicate fluctuations.
Almost every year, we head up to the Pacific Northwest to spend a week in a family cabin on a beautiful lake. Our time is spent in one of three ways:
- lounging on the dock (reading, talking, daydreaming)
- riding in the boat (exploring, lounging, hydrating)
Depending on the time of day, we either troll languidly, able to talk and enjoy the vast blue skies, or we zip from bay to bay, eagerly patronizing their quaint establishments.
Each bay we visit has its own vibe, and we love stopping for bites and brews. When we’re approaching a marina, the three of us not driving, start gathering the buoys and bungee cords, while our expert captain parallel parks along the dock.
Side Note: He parallel parks his boat better than most of us park our cars. It’s both impressive and secretly defeating.
The rest of us take our jobs very seriously, hoping to earn our keep while he plays the role of skilled chauffeur. We hold our buoys and stand by, ready to secure the boat (as soon as we figure out on which side he’ll be needing our assistance). Sometimes gleaning this information in a timely manner is half the battle. You may wonder why we don’t just ask, but I think we feel like this inquiry paints us as inept … and therefore disposable. It’s possible I’m over-thinking it.
Once we get parked and anchored, we start our adventure. It’s an amazingly simple and wonderful way to spend seven days.
There is a particular bay we like to visit, but with some measure of reluctance. We really like the bar and grill we go to, but the owner—Marge—scares the living daylights out of us. She’s rarely nice. And even when she’s relatively nice (my gosh I use “nice” loosely here), it’s still a very slippery slope. One eccentric request or high maintenance substitution … and it’s over.
You are dead to her.
We don’t really talk about it as we secure the boat, but we’re all thinking the same thing: Don’t piss off Marge. We know we’re only as strong as our weakest link—so while three of us might be expertly toeing the fine Marge line, the slightest misstep by the fourth can doom the team. We know we’re in it together, so we allow our body language to encourage or discourage behavior. For instance, if my attempts to appear confidently upbeat start to tip toward over-kill, I’ll get a “let’s tone it down a notch” look from someone.
What made this particular recent visit so precarious was that we’d been on the boat most of the afternoon—sipping on cold ones under the lake’s full sun. We were extremely thirsty. This meant one thing—we needed water with our beverage order. Let me explain something. This is a lake bar and grill. The food and drinks are great, but it’s not exactly a place where you ask for an addendum to your order.
The person who asks for gluten-free bread is the person who gets
backhanded to the next bay laughed out the door. Asking for dressing on the side would go over about as well as asking for free range, grass fed chicken at KFC.
So we knew we were on shaky ground with our need for water. Before she made her way over to greet us (“greet” hahahahaha), I asked the others without moving my lips, “What will we do for water? I really need some water.” Fred looked at me so quickly and with such fright that I was struck silent—which I’m sure was his intent.
In an urgent but hushed tone he said, “We might just need to run next door and get water from the store.”
This is not something I can make up. But what’s more shocking is the fact that I felt it was a sensible solution.
We chatted Marge up the best we could, trying to be neither too cheerful nor too chill. She seemed busy but not overly cranky. Score! This false sense of comfort is probably what led Jocelyn to deem it acceptable to bypass Marge and go directly to the bartender for four waters.
We watched in horror as she weaved around crowded tables and approached the bar with our absurd request. My eyes darted around like crazy looking for Marge and I hoped she was too occupied with customers to notice the rogue stunt. Just when I thought we were home free, they brushed shoulders as Jocelyn two-fisted four glasses of water.
She set them before us and whispered worriedly, “Marge caught me.”
We told her to keep her chin up and decided we’d just own up to our thirst and plow through; although, each of us was painfully aware of the possible repercussions. We contemplated a game plan, which included but was not limited to, going ahead and ordering meals—so we didn’t seem cheap—even though we’d just eaten a full lunch elsewhere and weren’t remotely hungry.
I said, “I understand the ramifications of
Jocelyn’s our actions, but none of us are hungry, so is it worse to just have this beer—come what may—or order four meals which will be half-eaten at best? Either way, I think we’re toast.”
While trying to make a collective decision, we were jarred by a booming, “Who in here is driving a white and blue Seacraft named ‘Bad Kitty’?”
A wide-eyed guy at a table of four, silently claimed the boat by sticking up his index finger.
“You need to move it. You’re parked in a slot this gentleman pays good money for and you need to move it NOW.”
The guy, slightly irked but mostly terrified, replied, “I thought I parked where I was supposed to—it said ‘Courtesy Parking’ for your restaurant. How would I know? What can I do?”
“You can stop talking is what you can do. You can move your boat is what you can do. You’re parked in a paid spot.”
As he opened his mouth to continue his defense, his girlfriend jumped up and grabbed his arm, smiling at Marge and saying they’d move it. This chick was a regular. No ifs, ands or buts.
Marge watched them walk out with a victoriously smug look on her face that said, “I’m a bad ass broad—not to be messed with, talked back to, or crossed.”
Full Disclosure: As I saw how gratified she was by her dominance, I swear I thought she might turn to the group and shout, “FEAR DOES NOT EXIST IN THIS DOJO, DOES IT?!” And we’d all roar, “NO SENSEI!”
The whole place was tense—some in mid-bite—momentarily unsure of how to proceed. Marge watched the two of them walk all the way out, then sucked her teeth and turned—with still boiling self-righteousness—and walked straight to our table. She looked at all four of us, blew out a deep breath and then suddenly and without warning … full-on CRAZY-SMILED. “Now! What can I get you guys?”
“I want a cheesburger!” I blurted out with all the breath I’d been holding for the last minute.
Everyone nodded wildly and pointed at themselves to say “Me too!” and Marge, still on a bully high, tipped her head and winked confidently, “I can do that!”
We felt like we’d dodged a major bullet and escaped the visit relatively unscathed. Well, thanks to Jocelyn’s mom, who, as we were leaving awhile later, looked back and noticed I hadn’t finished my water. She grabbed my elbow and hissed into my ear, “You didn’t finish your water! Go finish your water! Are you trying to get us banned?!”
I pretty much pole vaulted back to our table and drained it like a boss—as if I had one square inch of room in my stomach for ANYTHING.
Side Note: On my way back out, I wanted to quietly lean in and comfort the group who got scolded, but I was terrified Marge would see me sympathizing with the outlaws. The consequences would be felt for years, so I wisely aborted the mission.
I believe Marge’s antics were in direct correlation to what happened next. After we got back on the lake and laughed at yet another typical visit to said bar and grill, we decided to take a leisurely ride over to the marina restaurant near our cabin for one of their spicy bloody marys. A few minutes from the dock, we gathered up the buoys and bungees and stood by, waiting on Fred to slide us into a double slot where another boat was already anchored.
We’d figured out the correct side to station ourselves as he began making the turn into the slip—something he’s done hundreds of times—but for some reason (and this is where I think Marge comes in), he misjudged the turn, forcing me to leap to the other side and push off the moored boat to keep us from hitting it. I was laid out like an NFL receiver as I turned my head to see what Fred was doing. What I saw was that he’d fallen out of his captain’s chair and was clinging to the steering wheel.
I was unprepared for this visual.
Meanwhile, Jocelyn and her mom frantically grabbed and pulled here and there like we were on a blasted sailboat, when all we were trying to do was park in a spacious slot. Without words, we righted the ship and got everything secured. We climbed out of the boat and onto the dock, straightening our clothes and attempting to brush off what just happened.
As we began walking I said, “Well. That wasn’t our best game.”
We died out laughing and started talking over one another, “What happened?!” “Why’d you fall?!” “Why’d the boat drift so fast?!” “Yeah, why DID you fall?!” “What just HAPPENED?!”
Then we were faced with what we all already knew to be true. Lots of people had seen our landing. Marina restaurants have plenty of outside seating which, unfortunately, yielded us a decent crowd to witness our disaster.
I put my arm around Fred and said, “All those good games … all those wins … year after year, yet your one bad game makes it on the highlight reel … for all to see. Tough blow.”
We usually feel pretty good about our arrival and ability to smoothly disembark—skilled captain, capable crew—but not this time. We just passed the onlookers the only way we knew how … with knowing, regretful nods.
Did Marge disrupt our A-game? I think so. She shifted our focus from carefree living to second-guessing “courtesy parking.” We still don’t know how Fred fell out of his chair. We may never know. But I believe that too-freely swiveling chair had Mean Ol’ Marge’s name written all over it.
Oh, don’t get me wrong—we’ll be back at her place in a year. We’ll just proactively troubleshoot by arriving with an empty stomach—and our own water.
I’d love for you to join me on Facebook … it’s good for your health.